Review – Little Wing

Little WingAuthor illustrator, Katherine Battersby has flown many miles in recent times, a bit like her latest picture book character, Little Wing. Little Wing catapults the connotation of taking a leap of faith into glowing picture book form that is a pure delight to read.

Little Wing is the smartest animal in the world. He owes his genius to good old-fashioned book learning, that is to say, he reads – a lot. Nearly everything he knows is attributed to the days he spends between the pages of dozens of books bequeathed to his island home by providence.

Little Wing illos spreadIt appears a satisfying way to spend his days; I mean who hasn’t dreamed of reading under swaying palm trees on a sun soaked faraway island as a full time occupation! I’d call that heaven but for Little Wing whose aspirations and yearnings clearly outclass mine, ‘something was always missing.’ So, he sets out to find it.

Turns out, it’s Little Wing’s sense of self that is absent and no matter how many books or alter egos he assumes, none of them provide the right answer, the perfect fit. Until one radiant morning, realisation dawns and Little Wing’s life transforms forever. His social circles are greatly enhanced, as well.

Little Wing illoThe wait for Battersby’s next picture book has been well worth it. Little Wing exudes all the warmth, charm and wit of her debut picture book character, Squish Rabbit whilst introducing fans and new readers to a wonderfully new winsome critter. He is difficult not to love with his little wings and clacky big blue bit (aka his beak). However, what makes Little Wing universally appealing to young and old is his quiet and unquestioning fortitude. Even when faced with one of life’s most prominent and niggling questions: who am I and why am I here? Little Wing diligently pursues the answer until the answer literally flies right over him.

His tenacity tells young people that being one thing is fine but if you want to try other things, new things, then that’s okay too; you just need to be brave enough to pursue your dreams, to make that first leap into the unknown. Youngsters are no strangers to change. In fact the leaps in their young lives are almost always forced and without negotiation: going to school, moving home, surviving decaying family situations, growing up…So it won’t be hard for them to accept Little Wing as someone they can emulate and learn from.

Little Wing is likely to resonate with adults just as strongly. We all want to learn to fly. How many of us really have the courage to look deep within ourselves, take that first big breath, and then, move forward, though? It’s a daunting prospect but like Battersby herself, Little Wing does it with admirable aplomb.

Battersby’s accompanying artwork for this story is nothing short of fabulous. Bland bookish concepts are captured in bold watercolour and pencil illustrations intoxicatingly combined with fabrics, textiles and scanned vintage books. The resultant collage effect is a cocktail of fun and colour. I love it! So does my Miss 10 who spent many joyful moments with me feverishly examining the end pages in an effort to match feather to friend.

Katherine Battersby & Little WingLittle Wing is a picture book experience that sings on many levels but most importantly gives children license to extend themselves and follow their most ardent callings in order to reach true happiness.

Little Wing is available now, here. For those fortunate enough to live in SE Queensland, Katherine Battersby is touring a number of local schools, accompanying Little Wing as he explores his new home.

Little Wing # 2Little Wing is officially taking off this Saturday August 13th at Riverbend Books in Bulimba, Queensland. Join Katherine, Little Wing, and special guest, Peter Carnavas from 10.30 am for lots of fun and feathers.

UQP August 2016





Dance Academy, Learning to Fly

Based on the major new ABC tv series, Dance Academy, Learning to Fly tells the story of 16yo Tara, the daughter of sheep farmers who soon discovers that being in Dance Academy is not quite the dream come true she thought it would be.

She has to cope with back stabbing ballerinas, a teacher who seems to have taken a dislike to her and her own feelings for a boy who seems to have no interest in her.

Once of the things I loved about this book is that the characters were so well rounded. Heroine Tara was of course extremely talented, but she also had flaws which did more to endear her to me rather than detract from her appeal. Conversely, Abby, ‘the baddie’ had redeeming features that made the reader empathise with her even though she is trying to bring Tara down.

Learning to Fly handles real issues for kids this age in this kind of situation and the authenticity of the characters, dialogue and setting will appeal to teen readers.

Learning to Fly has themes of friendship choices, first love and finding your place in the world and would provide a useful discussion focus for any high school classroom.

Learning to Fly is published by ABC Books and Harper Collins

Meredith Costain Talks About Writing Learning to Fly

What inspired you to write this book?

Learning to Fly was commissioned by the publisher. It’s based on the TV show Dance Academy, currently screening on the ABC. They sent me the scripts and rough cut DVDs for 13 episodes and asked me to write a novel based on them. So the characters and the storylines belong to the scriptwriters rather than me. It’s a very different way of working.

Why will kids like it?

It’s based on a TV show that’s been very popular. Learning to Fly sold out its first print run in three weeks, so I guess kids do like it.  🙂

But also, dance is very big at the moment. Shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Glee – even Dancing with Galahs!

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

Tara is a very complex character, which made her much more interesting to write about than a two-dimensional clichéd ‘bunhead’. I didn’t invent her, but I had to be careful to make sure I included scenes in the book that display who she is, by her dialogue and actions. She’s over-sensitive, which means she takes things to heart too much. She’s also devastatingly honest and wears her heart on her sleeve – which gets her into embarrassing situations with the guy she falls for. She has a dream, and she’s determined to achieve it, no matter what it takes. As one of the lines from the background material says, she’s ‘nobody’s doormat. Push her too hard and she’ll come back fighting.’

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

There’s a fantastic website at

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

It’s a novelisation of a TV show, so a different way of working. But it goes beyond being just a blow by blow recount of everything that happens in the show. There’s room for the character to reflect on what’s happening to her – the reader can get inside her head and she what she’s thinking, as well as seeing her actions and hearing what she says.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The scripts were wonderful and the production standards were very high. It made my job much easier when the raw material was so good. You could tell the kids in the acting roles – who were all fabulous dancers as well as actors – really enjoyed themselves making the show. The setting – Sydney Harbour – was so vivid it almost became one of the characters.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Distilling so much material (13 episodes) into one book of 25,000 words. I had to plot everything out very carefully to work out which scenes had to go in and which could be left out. Not just for ‘my’ character though. Four books following the lives of the other main characters were being written by other people at the same time, and I had to be careful not to ‘steal’ too much of the storylines that concerned them. So there needed to be a few ‘sweeping paragraphs’ that moved the story along so that what happened next to my character made sense.

The deadline was also very tight as the producers wanted the books out at the same time the show went to air. I had the DVD playing in one corner of my computer screen, a script in another, and my text in the middle. Plus masses of scribbled notes all over the desk. The rewind function got a really good workout too, as I’d play a scene over and over to set it in my mind so I could describe it accurately, or pick up on dialogue that had changed since the script had been written.

Thanks for visiting Kids’ Book Capers this week, Meredith. It has been great to hear about your new releases and how you wrote them.

Next week on Kids’ Book Capers, Sue Whiting is here to talk about her gripping new novel Get A Grip, Cooper Jones.